Wednesday, March 23, 2005

WHY IT ISN'T ALWAYS GOOD TO TALK TO THE PRESS ABOUT YOUR INVENTIVE ACTIVITY: Tony Redekas and his son Gary, have developed a device that modifies ladders, allowing them to remain stable and upright no matter how uneven the ground below it is.

The Redekas are not alone in their invention; several other leveling devices exist for ladders of various types. While the two men acknowledge that their device is not alone in the market, they vigorously assert that it is the best."You started seeing levelers all the time," Tony and Gary Redekas said. "Basically they were all the same idea: two legs with holes." The two inventors describe this design as inherently faulty.

A leveler which works through a series of holes with a peg basically has just a series of settings, Gary Redekas explained. The device could not accommodate a need for any height which did not match one of these settings.

Having designed their ladder leveler to use a turned clamp, rather than a series of holes, the two men believe that they have solved this shortcoming.

- Now for the kicker:

According to Gary Redekas he and his dad designed their device about five years ago, needing only a month to create the simple design which they use.

"We worked on it years ago, but we didn’t do anything with it for a long time," Gary Redekas said. "We let it sit for several years without doing anything with it."

Last May, the two men say, they applied for and received a provisional patent. This protection, which lasts for one year, allows them to search for a manufacturer for their device.
- Now I understand that individual inventors and small start-ups need to generate "buzz" about their new products to attract VC money or to develop a manufacturing base, but are they being advised by an attorney? It would appear that they are not. First, as you probably already noticed, there is no such thing as a "provisional patent," but only a "provisional application," and the only "protection" received by the provisional application is that against prior art that can be asserted against the application after its filing date. You can't enforce a provisional application.

And why are they publicly disclosing matters related to conception and reduction to practice? Announcing to the world that you conceived of the invention well over a year before the filing date of the provisional application is just plain foolish. In fact, that quote could very well serve to undermine any non-provisional applications that spawn from the provisional. Seeing a quote like that would send any patent litigator into a gleeful frenzy of invalidity arguments and discovery motions (I can't imagine that quote helping very much when it is brought to a judge's attention or blown up in 1000 point font in front of a jury).

Thus the lesson of the day: if you're pursuing patent protection, anything you say can and will be used against you.

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